By Karin Gelschus
New ownership brings new opportunities for aftermarket manufacturer Tommy Toppers. After nearly a decade, Tommy Toppers is changing hands and looking to expand outside the powersports industry.
In early February, owner Tommy Slone sold the company, which is now under the ownership of J E Brown. John Brown says he will retain the Tommy Toppers brand name for the ATV and UTV aftermarket company.
For the next three years, Slone says he will be helping with the design for new and future products, while training the new owners John and Larry Brown.
“We are excited about this new endeavor with John and Larry,” Slone said in a press release, “and look forward to continuing to make the same great products.”
Looking for something else to get his hands on, John Brown and his father found Tommy Toppers through a business broker.
“We’re very excited about it, and we’re really looking forward to getting into it,” John Brown said. “I want to really get ingrained into the industry as much as I can. Even though it’s new, it still feels familiar. I’m pretty comfortable in it. It’s just getting all the nuances and getting all the right contacts.
“I had an absolute blast at the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis. Meeting everyone reinforced my views that I got a great company with a great product.”
Producing that product is perhaps the most unique workforce in the powersports industry: the Amish community in Nappanee, Ind. The Amish plan to stay on board with the new owners, but it was a tearful time when Slone and his wife Bridget told them of the change of ownership.
“It was a hard deal to tell them I sold the business,” Slone said. “It’s like losing a kid. We went through all the crying and should we do this, should we not. It’s a hard thing, but I’m ready to move on.”
Less than two months into new ownership, Tommy Toppers is already being taken to new levels.
“We got a really good new metal fabricator that’s expanded the powersports product line pretty dramatically for us right away,” said Brown.
One new product that’s currently in the making is a bed that slides out from under a UTV. Brown says it slides out into a full-size bed, and it has a full canopy as well as steps. “It’s like a hunter’s dream,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
John and Larry Brown are looking to manufacture products outside of the powersports industry as well.
“We’ll try to look at different areas that we can touch with the same processes,” said John Brown. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests from golf cart companies, and we’re going to be looking at stuff like that. Tom Slone, he’s a brilliant man. He came up with this hot tub cover that I can’t wait to get on the market.”
A couple of the new products should be on the market by mid-summer, notes Brown.
With the extension of the product line, there might be a need to increase staffing, but Brown says the Amish have committed to expanding if necessary.
“It’s amazing how quickly they can put a building up and get it ready for expansion,” he said. “It’s a lot quicker than anything I could do, a lot cheaper too.”
Slone has been in the industry for more than 20 years, and his youngest son is following in his footsteps as an avid dirt bike racer. Slone says he and his family will be traveling quite a bit, a lot of which will be for racing.
“We’ve been racing, and it’s hard to do both,” he said, referring to running Tommy Toppers. “Do a couple years of that (racing) and that’s it, I’m retiring. Finally start using some of these toys I have. I have $200,000 worth of toys here and I haven’t gotten to use the things. I need to make this new move and make a change.”